7 Stan Lee Cameos That Prove He Is The Ultimate Superhero Of The MCU
We all hoped the creator of the Marvel Cinematic Universe would be immortal, but last night, Lee — who was 95 years old — passed away in the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. Now, there’s no stopping us Marvel fans from imagining him dissipating into the wind like Odin did when he passed on to Valhalla. On the other hand, if you were a committed Marvel fanatic, the inference you would’ve made from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.2 would have you know that Lee is in fact, a Watcher — one of the oldest species in the universe that are devoted to observing and compiling information on all aspects of the universe — and has merely changed form.
Lee was, perhaps, one of the most influential and loved people of our generation for taking the nerdy comic book genre and transforming it into a worldwide phenomenon. Just type ‘fan theories about so and so superhero’ in the search tab of Google and you’ll come across a legion of fans who have pledged their lives to dissecting every minute reference made by the characters of the MCU. Remembering Stan ‘The Man’ Lee for who he was and what he gave the world, we recall a few of the much-looked-forward-to cameos that he made in our favourite superhero movies.
Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007)
This movie may have been the recipient of unanimous loathing from MCU loyalists, but it features what could probably be labelled Stan Lee’s best cameo of all time. The ‘Marvel Grandpa’, as he is known, pops up during the wedding of Reed Richards and Sue Storm and is nonchalantly headed towards the entrance when he is stopped by the usher who asks for his name. Lee retorts with a cheerful “Stan Lee” to which the usher utters, “Yeah, nice try, buddy” before escorting him off the premises. The scene ends with Lee helplessly muttering “But I am Stan Lee!” This cameo is a special one for the simple reason that it’s the only Marvel movie in which Lee actually refers to himself by his own name.
Spider-Man 3 (2007)
While most of Lee’s cameos are gags that are meant to provide comic relief — the earliest ones being entirely devoid of speech — he took on an emotional persona for Spider-Man 3. Tobey Maguire’s Spider-Man is walking on the street, questioning his superhero status and whether it does more harm than good to the general public when he comes across a ticker flashing a message that reads “Spider-Man to receive key to the city… Saves daughter of police-captain.” He watches it with a small smile on his face when Lee appears beside him and knowingly says, “You know, I guess one person can make a difference”, followed by a drawn-out pause that ends with a very Stan-like “Nuff said.” Seems like that was all the affirmation Spider-Man needed because he does go on to save the day — multiple times.
Iron Man (2008)
While it’s true that Tony Stark is a cocky ladies’ man who didn’t care much for the people he met before finding his calling as a superhero, we can’t say we blame him for mistaking Lee for Hugh Hefner. Seeing an octogenarian dressed in a maroon tuxedo made out of velvet, surrounded by a bevvy of girls who are fawning over him, Stark pats Lee on the back, mouthing a quick, “You look great, Hef.” The comic grandmaster turns around in confusion to look for the person who dealt him the misnomer, but Stark had already breezed off by then. Well, joke’s on Tony if Hefner and Lee are clinking glasses in heaven at this very moment.
P.S. This gag is continued in Iron Man 2 when Tony Stark once again confuses Lee for American television host Larry King. The comic writer finally gets his revenge on the genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist, where he plays a delivery man for FedEx. “Are you Tony Stank?”, he inquires while looking Stark in the eye. Well, he did manage to get in the last word there.
The Avengers (2012)
This scene makes it to this list because of the sheer irony of it all. The Avengers have assembled, saved planet earth from the Chitauri and are now returning to their respective homelands. It is not until after the climax that Lee makes his mandatory appearance by way of a news broadcast that captures citizens of New York reacting to the aftermath of the war between the space aliens and the vigilante task force. The reel shows that the scales are tipped equally in favour of for and against, before finally panning into Lee’s face while he’s sitting across a chessboard from someone in a park. He sneers, “Superheroes in New York? Give me a break” before returning to the game. The creator of the MCU questioning the existence of superheroes? Doesn’t get more meta than that.
Guardians of the Galaxy (2015) established Lee as a ‘Class A Prevert’ with Rocket analysing him through his tab as he chats with a nubile woman. This persona is carried forward by Lee in Deadpool where he plays a DJ at a strip club that Wade Wilson shows up at to look for his girlfriend, Vanessa. He announces, “Coming on to our stage right now, give it up for Chastity” with Flo Rida’s It’s Going Down For Real playing in the background. Something about seeing Lee behind a DJ’s console is too endearing and almost makes you want to go over and give him a quick hug before leaving him to his duties.
Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
This time around, the Marvel grandmaster has journeyed all the way to the waste planet Sakaar and essays the role of a barber. The Gamemaster wants Thor to be preened for his big showdown against his champion and believes that his long golden locks will come in the way of an epic fight. He wants to go for a look with more character so Thor is packed off to the hairdresser’s, bound to a chair. A voice speaks up, “Now, don’t you move. My hands aren’t as steady as they used to be”. The camera pans on to Lee’s face and then zooms out, indicating that he’s dressed as one of the locals from Sakaar in full armour. Thor issues him a warning, “By Odin’s beard, you shall not cut my hair lest you feel the wrath of the mighty Thor.” We see that Lee is holding a contraption in his hand, and upon pressing a button, the machine whirs to life and sharp blades start rotating at an alarmingly high speed. Thor’s tone changes instantly and he mewls, “Please, kind sir. Do not cut my hair”, a phrase utterly out of character for the puissant Norse God. However, judging from his sleek hairdo in the next scene, we can vouch for Lee’s hairdressing skills.
Black Panther (2018)
It’s an incredibly tense moment at the casino where T’Challa encounters Everett Ross while he’s waiting for Klaue to show up for a vibranium deal. The scene features three different groups with varied interests and none of them are quite sure what the others are up to. T’Challa displays Bond-levels of expertise at the casino by casually winning a stack of money at the roulette table. But money is not really the concern of the king of Wakanda as he turns his attention to Ross and simply says, “Klaue is leaving out that door with me. You have been warned,” before walking away. The craps dealer announces the results of the game and the CIA operative exclaims, “Hey, you won!” but T’Challa has already left. This is when Lee appears as the quintessential con-man and coolly declares, “You know what? I think I’ll just take these, bring them over here and hold on for safekeeping.” Ross sees right through his ruse but lets him pocket the winnings anyway — whatever helps an old man sleep better at night, right?
Lee once said the following words. “I used to be embarrassed because I was just a comic-book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realise: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it, they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.” We couldn’t agree more and we only hope that the directors are able to develop a CGI version of Lee and continue to have him appear as his wicked alter egos.